Avoiding Challenges to your Costs IV: Time Recording

Time spent time recording is time well-spent. Time recording can sometimes seem onerous, particularly when in the midst of tackling some complex and urgent legal problem. However, good time recording supports strong recoveries and avoids client challenges to costs.

This is the fourth blog in a series covering various aspects of solicitor / own client relationships. You can find the other blogs here:-

Avoiding Challenges to your Costs I: Invoicing Clients

Avoiding Challenges to your Costs II: What is an Invoice

Avoiding Challenges to your Costs III: Talking about Money

What is Time Recording?

Time recording and attendance notes are often combined, but they are actually separate. Attendance notes are to keep a record of discussions and reviews of documents for the lawyer to refer to later. For example, recording the client’s instructions in relation to making an offer. The purpose of time recording is to record and justify the time spent.

Why Record Time?

Whenever a solicitor raises an invoice to their client (see Avoiding Challenges to your Costs I: Invoicing Clients) the client has a right to challenge those costs. We will consider the test for challenging costs in more detail in a future blog, but in short it is whether the costs claimed are reasonable. Alternatively, the client may be able to recover their costs from the other side.

In either case, the solicitor’s time may ultimately come under scrutiny. High quality time recording notes protect the solicitor’s time from challenge.

Key Elements of Time Recording

Every firm has different styles and standards of time recording, but it should always contain a few key elements:-

  • Who did it;
  • When it was done;
  • How Long it took;
  • What you did; and
  • Why you did it.

Most time recording will include Who, When, and How Long, but What and Why are often overlooked and sometimes missed out completely. By keeping in mind why you are time recording, you will avoid these mistakes.

How to Time Record

The Who, When and How Long will usually be recorded automatically. The What and Why will usually require the fee earner to write some kind of narrative. A time recording note does not need to be long, and in fact should usually be kept short. For example:-

Call to the client to discuss the opponent’s offer dated 1 June 2021

This note gives plenty of information to explain what was done and why it was necessary. It is clear that it was a telephone call, and that the purpose was to consider an offer.

It is also usually better to refer to individuals by their status in the proceedings rather than by name. For example, “call to Counsel” rather than “call to Steve”. This is because time recording notes are usually for the benefit of someone who was not directly involved in managing the proceedings. Using names can make it hard for a client or judge to follow, particularly when there are a lot of different people such as witnesses, experts, counsel and parties involved.


Good time recording leads to better recovery and fewer client challenges. Practicing good time recording, and training new staff to time record effectively will pay dividends in recovery rates and avoid challenges.

You can find out more about our services here or you can contact the Costs Team at CivilCosts@clarionsolicitors.com

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